Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Evan's Covent Garden


At the north-west corner of Covent Garden Market is a lofty edifice, which, with the building that preceded it, possesses a host of interesting associations. Sir Kenelm Digby came to live here after the Restoration of Charles II.: here he was much visited by the philosophers of his day, and built in the garden in the rear of the house a laboratory. The mansion was altered, if not rebuilt, for the Earl of Orford, better known as Admiral Russell, who, in 1692, defeated Admiral de Tourville, and ruined the French fleet. The façade of the house originally resembled the forecastle of a ship. The fine old staircase is formed of part of the vessel Admiral Russell commanded at La Hogue; it has handsomely carved anchors, ropes, and the coronet and initials of Lord Orford. The Earl died here in 1727; and the house was afterwards occupied by Thomas, Lord Archer, until 1768; and by James West, the great collector of books, etc., and President of the Royal Society, who died in 1772.

Mr. Twigg recollected Lord Archer's garden (now the site of the singing-room), at the back of the Grand Hotel, about 1765, well stocked; mushrooms and cucumbers were grown there in high perfection.

In 1774, the house was opened by David Low as an hotel; the first family hotel, it is said, in London. Gold, silver, and copper medals were struck, and given by Low, as advertisements of his house; the gold to the princes, silver to the nobility, and copper to the public generally. About 1794, Mrs. Hudson, then proprietor, advertised her hotel, "with stabling for one hundred noblemen and horses." The next proprietors were Richardson and Joy.

At the beginning of the present century, and some years afterwards, the hotel was famous for its large dinner- and coffee-room. This was called the "Star," from the number of men of rank who frequented it. One day a gentleman entered the dining-room, and ordered of the waiter two lamb-chops; at the same time inquiring, "John, have you a cucumber?" The waiter replied in the negative—it was so early in the season; but he would step into the market, and inquire if there were any. The waiter did so, and returned with—"There are a few, but they are half-a-guinea apiece." "Half-a-guinea apiece! are they small or large?" "Why, rather small." "Then buy two," was the reply. This incident has been related of various epicures; it occurred to Charles Duke of Norfolk, who died in 1815.

Evans, of Covent-Garden Theatre, removed here from the Cider Cellar in Maiden-lane, and, using the large dining-room for a singing-room, prospered until 1844, when he resigned the property to Mr. John Green. Meanwhile, the character of the entertainment, by the selection of music of a higher class than hitherto, brought so great an accession of visitors, that Mr. Green built, in 1855, on the site of the old garden (Digby's garden) an extremely handsome hall, to which the former singing-room forms a sort of vestibule. The latter is hung with the collection of portraits of celebrated actors and actresses, mostly of our own time, which Mr. Green has been at great pains to collect.

The spécialité of this very agreeable place is the olden music, which is sung here with great intelligence and spirit; the visitors are of the better and more appreciative class, and often include amateurs of rank. The reserved gallery is said to occupy part of the site of the cottage in which the Kembles occasionally resided during the zenith of their fame at Covent-Garden Theatre; and here the gifted Fanny Kemble is said to have been born.

John Timbs
Club Life of London Vol. II
London, 1866